Copyright © Philadelphia Church of God
Surely nothing could have started smaller. Born in adversity in the very depths of the Depression, this Work of God was destined to grow to worldwide power.
But I did not realize its destiny then. There were no illusions of grandeur. It was not through any planning of mine that the little Three-Point Campaign then being launched was to expand into its present global scope and influence.
Most people are conscious only of what they see—of that which is material. They fail to see the invisible hand of God in the working out of things.
All I had in mind, as the World Tomorrow program was being planned late in 1933, was to serve God faithfully wherever He should lead in that local territory of Lane County, Oregon.
It is true that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” But few people realize that the source of true vision is God. There has been vision behind the planning and phenomenal growth of this great Work. But this is the Work of God, not of man; and the vision and the planning has been that of Jesus Christ, the active, living Head of this Work, not of man.
Even in earlier business experience, I had always looked ahead. It had become habitual with me to think of expanding. I had envisioned my laundry advertising service becoming national in scope. I did have a vision of this broadcasting being expanded.
But, I most certainly did not sit down, in the fall of 1933, and lay out detailed plans in my human mind for a great, powerful, Earth-encircling program to reach and influence the millions in every nation. There was no thought, then, of a gigantic radio program, and a publishing enterprise, starting in Eugene, Oregon, but soon expanding to every inhabited continent; there certainly was no thought of the massive television program of today (television was virtually unheard of until some 12 years later, after the end of World War ii); nor was there the remotest idea that we should, at the proper time along the way, organize and build a college for training the personnel for a rapidly growing organization.
No, this Work, in the sense of the magnitude to which it has developed, was not of my planning or vision. This is the very Work of
What actually was happening has been written for almost 1,900 years. Of course no one—least of all myself—had the remotest realization of it then. Jesus Christ said: “I will build my Church.” He built it for a purpose—to become God’s instrument in carrying on God’s Work fulfilling His purpose here below.
God began the Work of His Church through Christ. Jesus said that He Himself was powerless—it was the power of God’s Holy Spirit working in His personal human body which really did the Work.
But after His ascension to heaven, that same Work of God was carried on through the Spirit of God working in the collective body of God’s Church. That is why the true Church is called “the body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
God sent His message—the good news of His Kingdom—of His reign—His government—His divine Family—to mankind by Jesus Christ. Jesus taught this message to His disciples, who became the apostolic leaders of His Church as it started out.
This message from God—Christ’s gospel—was also recorded in the Scriptures of the New Testament. A few accepted that message, and it changed their lives.
But men generally rejected the gospel—they crucified Jesus for teaching it! Those who preached it were persecuted—martyred!
During the first 19-year time cycle of the preaching of the gospel—a.d. 31 to 50—the gospel was being preached primarily to Jews. The Jews had understood about the Kingdom of God. They were familiar with the prophecies of Isaiah 9:6-7, of how the Messiah would come to set up the Kingdom and government of God over all the world. What the Jews did not understand was that Jesus’s first coming, as a babe born of the virgin Mary, was to qualify, by resisting and conquering Satan, to replace Satan on the throne of the Earth as well as to announce that Kingdom to appear some 1,900 years later. And to pay with His own life’s blood for the penalty of human sins.
Consequently, the 12 apostles devoted their preaching to the Jews primarily to proving that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. The opposition against the spread of the Church was almost wholly from within the Jewish community, denying the Messiahship of Jesus. The 12 apostles were eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus was the true Messiah. They had been with Him continually for some 3½ years before His crucifixion and 40 days after His crucifixion until His ascension to God’s throne in heaven.
But the preaching of the Apostle Paul and other apostles to the people of the Gentile world was the very gospel Jesus Himself had proclaimed—the good news of the future coming of the Kingdom of God and world rulership of Christ. The Gentiles had not heard of the Kingdom of God before.
Somewhere around the middle of the first century, a violent controversy had begun to develop as to whether the gospel to be preached was merely a gospel about Christ—of His Messiahship and death as our Savior—or the very message God sent by Jesus as the divine Messenger with the message of the true gospel (good news) of the coming Kingdom of God.
Evidence of this is the letter the Apostle Paul wrote about this time to the churches in Galatia, in which he warned that they had already turned to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-7).
At that time a most amazing thing occurred. The history regarding the Church—its gospel and its development—seems almost totally to have disappeared. It was as if a curtain had been rung down on all historic accounts of Church history until about a.d. 150. When this curtain was lifted after that lost century, in the records of Church history, an altogether different gospel was being preached—merely the so-called gospel of men about the Christ, the Messenger, but not proclaiming His message.
Except for the one true Church, persecuted, falsely accused, condemned, subjected to martyrdom over the centuries by the rising great false church (Revelation 17:5), the true gospel—the good news of the coming Kingdom of God—was not preached to the world for 100 19-year time cycles. Then, in 1953, God miraculously opened the door before me of the most powerful radio station on Earth, reaching all Europe and Britain, Radio Luxembourg.
Christ foretold that, just before the end of this world—this age—this man-built society rejecting the laws and ways of God—His very same gospel of God’s Kingdom “shall be preached” (Matthew 24:14) and also published (Mark 13:10) “in all the world for a witness unto all nations.”
In the light of fast-developing, world-encircling events, it became apparent that what was actually happening in 1934 was precisely this: Jesus Christ was opening the gigantic mass-media door of radio and the printing press for the proclaiming of His same original gospel to all the world!
On that tiny-powered radio station kore—in that infant mimeographed Plain Truth—was going out an astonishing message! Just as the public, 1,900 years before, had been astonished at Christ’s gospel (Mark 1:14-15, 22), so were those who began to hear this same gospel in 1934. It was so utterly different from what had been palmed off as “Christianity.”
And so it was, that when Mr. Frank Hill, owner of kore, urged me to produce a half-hour Sunday program, consisting of a regular church service condensed into a half hour using radio techniques, that I went to work on the idea with zest and enthusiasm.
This seemed big, compared to past activities. I saw in it immediately an opportunity to reach many more people with God’s truth.
Not only did I set out with a will to produce the radio program, but I realized there must be follow-up (and I do not mean a money-soliciting follow-up) if this new effort were to be resultful.
Immediately the idea came of realizing, at last, the dream I had cherished since 1927—the publication of a magazine, to be called the Plain Truth. Back in 1927 I had made up an entire “dummy” of this proposed magazine. I had even written articles for it. I even had a professional letter artist design a front cover idea in 1927—and I had tried designing one myself. But we had never had the “wherewithal” to start publishing a magazine.
This ambition to publish the Plain Truth was the natural outgrowth of earlier business experience. Much of my 20 years of advertising experience had been spent in the class magazine field.
Now, at last, I realized that this magazine was a “must” as a follow-up for the radio broadcast. Yet we were no more able, financially, than we had been in 1927.
Necessity is the mother of invention. If we could not afford to publish a high-quality, professional-appearing magazine, I would simply convert the mimeographed Bulletin I had been issuing for our scattered Church brethren in the Willamette Valley into the Plain Truth.
My idea for this magazine, from the start, had been to publish a magazine, not for Church members, but for the general public—the unconverted and unchurched—an evangelistic-type publication to bring to the world God’s truth—making it plain!
So now, even if it had to start with about 250 copies done by hand on a mimeograph, I would start it! Like the grain of a mustard seed, it started, very possibly, the smallest of magazines. But it has grown into a professional-appearing 32-page magazine of over 8 million circulation.
Also I saw at once that the broadcasts should be followed up by continued public evangelistic services.
Therefore, I wrote to the small number of members on the mailing list I had—perhaps less than 50—the news of the forthcoming Three-Point Campaign: 1) The half-hour Sunday radio program; 2) the new mimeographed magazine for interested listeners, the Plain Truth; and 3) personal public meetings.
The broadcast, and idea of the Three-Point Campaign, had been completely approved, of course, by the brethren of the Church.
On the first Sunday morning in the new year, 1934, precisely at 10 a.m., we were on the air. The program has been continuously on the air, without missing a single week, ever since.
Mr. Hill had suggested that we produce a regular Sunday morning church service, condensed into 30 minutes. I had planned it according to his suggestion. In our new local Church, then meeting out at the Jeans schoolhouse, 12 miles west of Eugene, we had a young couple, Claude and Velma Ellis. Claude was a very good tenor. His wife Velma sang alto. They sang duets. They supplied the music.
I do not remember the exact format of the program, as it started, during those first few months. Very soon the duet was replaced with a mixed quartet, with our daughter Beverly singing soprano, Mrs. Armstrong alto, Claude Ellis tenor, and Alfred Freeze bass, with Mrs. Ellis at the piano.
As the program started out it was called the “Radio Church of God.” It was, indeed, a church service on the air. There has been a gradual evolution in the format of the program. We were to learn, later, that an abbreviated church service appeals only to a very few churchgoing people, who may want to listen in on a church service—or to “attend church” without leaving their homes. It attracts only what is called the “religious audience.” Through the years the program changed, until it became a program pointed toward the non-churchgoing public—people who are not religious and may never attend church.
Gradually, we learned that it was the message which attracted listeners. Radio station managers began to tell us that we really had a speech-type program, and a message and type of speech which would attract and hold a bigger audience than music.
But back, now, to January 1934.
Just as the 15-minute morning devotional programs had brought an unexpected mail response, so did the half-hour regular program of our own. Only it now brought a larger response. I began with the first broadcast, that first Sunday in 1934, inviting listeners to write in for the new magazine, the Plain Truth.
At the same time I began work on producing Volume 1 and Number 1 of this magazine of my dreams. I did not even have a “scope” for hand-lettering the headlines. I was still living with the Fishers on their farm seven miles west of Eugene—my wife and children still at the Hall Street house in Salem. I had to hold the mimeograph stencils up against a window, and try to cut the headlines with my right hand while I tried to hold the stencil without slipping against the window pane with my left. The headlines were a little shaky. That first issue of the Plain Truth was somewhat amateurish, and homemade looking. Probably no one but myself would have dignified it by calling it a “magazine.”
No publication could have had a more humble, or a smaller start. But it was a start. It grew. It was improved, as scanty funds permitted. It took years before we were able to have it printed on a printing press. But through the years it has been instrumental in making drastic changes in thousands of lives!
It was sometime later, in 1934, that a few special offerings made it possible for us to purchase a very old, used, outdated Neostyle. It was predecessor to the mimeograph. It was entirely hand operated. The sheets of paper had to be fed into it one at a time by hand. There was nothing automatic about it. It cost $10. We had also finally been able, before or shortly after the first issue of the Plain Truth, to raise enough money to purchase a secondhand typewriter for $10.
And so finally the Plain Truth, homemade at Fishers’ farm on the mimeograph I was permitted to use at the office of the local mimeograph dealer, but containing priceless plain truth, made its humble bow to the world February 1, 1934. I have no record of the exact “press run” of that first edition, but it was in the neighborhood of 250 copies. I think we still have one copy somewhere in some old files.
Looking back now, we are a little amazed to see how far the broadcast and the Plain Truth have gone since then. That “grain of mustard seed” is multiplying mightily under the guiding power of God!Continue Reading: Chapter 32: Campaign Gets Under Way—Despite Opposition